Women, and Man at train station
(Title still in progress)
(Lights up. Calvin and Katherine sit in what appears to be a waiting room. Both seem tired. Nurse enters from stage left)
Nurse: Katherine Johnson? I have the report regarding your mother Joanne Marshal.
(Katherine stands) Katherine: Oh yes. Thank you.
(They stand to the side talking silently)
(Amy runs in from stage right. Her warm clothing hints that it is winter time.)
Amy: Dad! I came as soon as I could! Im so sorry the traffic into the city was terrible. (He stands and stops her from running past)
Calvin: Amy calm down. Everything is okay. She is awake.
Amy: Oh thank God. I thought…
Calvin: I know what you thought... It's okay honey. (He hugs her)
(Katherine walks over)
Amy: Can I finally see her?
Katherine: Yes, but Amy--
Amy: How long does she have? What happened?
Katherine: The nurse said a few days. A week or two at most.
Amy: I...I don’t understand...She is up, awake, and talking. I thought she was going to be okay, and that’s why you called me here…To bring her home. Right?
Katherine: Amy…She can’t go home. Its spread, and there's nothing the doctors can do to stop it. I'm so sorry.
Amy: But I…I don’t understand. She…
Katherine: Just go in there, and talk to your grandma baby.
(Amy begins to walk, but Katherine grabs her arm and hugs her tightly. As she pulls away Katherine kisses Amy on the head.)
(Amy slowly walks into the hospital room stage left where Joanne sits up on a bed)
(As Amy walks in)
Katherine: This is just like my father all over again Calvin. I can't bear to watch Amy get her hopes up only to be let down a second time. His death was hard enough on her. How is she gonna deal with losing her Grandmother too?
(Katherine begins to cry, and Calvin holds her)
Calvin: The same way we dealt with Richard's death...together. Amy is strong. She’ll be okay… I promise.
(As Amy enters Joanne face instantly becomes brighter)
Joanne: Well Hello stranger. How’s my baby girl?
(Amy slightly chuckles)
Amy: Grandma, I’m not a baby anymore.
Joanne: Oh please. You’ll always be our baby.
(Amy slowly moves towards the bed, and leans in to hug Joanne. Amy then sits down in the chair next to the bed, and grabs Joanne’s hand.)
Amy: How are you feeling?
Joanne: Oh I'm doing just fine honey. It must be all this medication they have me on. It’s turning these old gears a little faster today.
(Joanne attempts a weak smile. Amy smiles, but her eyes say something different)
Joanne: What’s wrong?
Amy: Nothing is wrong. I was just thinking about how long it’s been since you’ve told me a story.
Joanne: Not since you were a child.
Amy: It feels like so long ago.
Joanne: And it went by so fast…
(They stay silent a moment, until Joanne breaks the silence)
Joanne: What story do you want to hear?
Amy: Because I miss him... How about the first time you met Grandpa? I know how much you love talking about him, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one.
Joanne: Oh surely I must have told you that one already.
Amy: Not with all the details. I want to know everything.
(Stage right is being set with two benches. Three actors act out the scene being portrayed through the story-telling. Young Joanne closest center. Woman in middle. Man on the end.)
Joanne: Well alright. (She looks off into the audience and smiles) Hmm where do I begin? (Pauses) It was a Friday in 1951, and I had just turned 22. I was heading home from work. I remember it like it was yesterday. At the time it felt like any other day. As usual I was late for my train home, but today, due to repairs, the next one wouldn’t come till later that night. And so the waiting game began. I remember sitting alone on a bench reading a book my father had given me for my birthday. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. His favorite book.
Amy: You read that book to me when I was in 8th grade.
Joanne: It’s a tradition to pass it along in the family love…anyways, after a while I became restless, and put down the book. I stood and began to walk around the strip. It wasn’t until I looked, that I really noticed the people around me. There was this young woman dressed like she was going to a most extravagant party on my left, and a few feet away there was an old man walking and smoking a cigar. He seemed so content with the world.
Amy: How did you tell that from just looking at him?
Joanne: You know how some people follow what is in front of them? They obey the unspoken rules of life? Go to school, marry rich; you know. Well, this old man had the appearance of someone who stopped that following motion, and created his own path.
Amy: And you knew this just by looking at him? Grandma you're-
Joanne: Yes! I promise, love. It sounds strange, my father always said I could read people really well.
Amy: People aren't books grandma...
Joanne: Did I know for sure how the man was? No. But I liked to believe there was more to a person than what can be seen with the naked eye. It was while I was staring at this old man that my life changed, and to think…I didn’t even know it at the time. A new train following a different route stopped at the station, and only a few passengers got on. It followed its regular routine and started off. I was so lost in the world around me that I didn’t see where I was going-
Amy: Not much has changed, huh, Grandma?
Joanne: Oh stop that Amy! (She laughed) Anyways, I was so lost in the world around me that I didn't see where I was going and apparently, neither did the boy running towards me.
(Amy and Joanne exit. Benches move to center stage. Two people sit on the benches. Woman is powdering her nose, and man is smoking a cigar. Young Joanne walks along the stage in a daze)
(Conductor enters stage right)
Conductor: This is the final boarding announcement for Train 91, Texas Chief, departing at Gate 17. All Aboard!
(The Conductor leaves stage right)
(Young Richard enters stage left in a hurry. A suitcase in hand. He runs straight into Joanne knocking her things right out of her hands. He stops just before exiting stage right)
Richard: (to himself) Dammit! (He turns to see Joanne picking up her book) Oh! I am so sorry miss. I didn't-- I'm just... Oh I didnt mean to run right into you...its just...you see, that was my train… (Points stage right)
(Attitude in her voice)
Joanne: I suggest you watch where you are going next time, and I also suggest from now on you know when your train leaves. (She looks at how sorry he is and sighs) Oh— I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. I think I’m perfectly alright (twirls in her dress and checks her arms and legs. Sees book strewn on the ground). But my poor book isn't…
(He picks up the tattered book)
Richard: I can buy you another! Just tell me where you got it, and I’ll replace it good as new!
Joanne: It was my great Grand-daddy’s actually…
(Richard stares at the book in his hands and lets out an embarrassed sigh)
Richard: I’m a horrible person…
Joanne: It’s okay, honest. It lived a good life.
(Joanne sits on the bench as Richard stands with the book still in hand, examining it and kicking the dirt to avoid the awkward.)
Richard: The Invisible Man, huh? ...I’ve never had the pleasure of reading it.
Joanne: Well, if you ever find a copy that’s not torn to smithereens, I suggest you read it. (Richard sighs apologetically. Joanne laughs.) It is one of my favorites. (Finishes putting things back into her bag. Richard still stands at a distance, the audience can tell he likes her but is nervous to speak. Joanne tilts her head to see his face.) You might as well get comfortable, all train routes are delayed till later tonight.
Richard: I see. (He shifts uncomfortably)
Joanne: I promise I don't bite (He finally sits) Sorry, you have missed your train...I missed mine as well. I feel bad for being such a hypocrite back there.
Richard: You had good reason. I bumped right into you, and I ruined your book from your Grandfather.
Joanne: (correcting him) –Great Grand-daddy.
Richard: Great Grand-daddy, pardon me. (He laughs and relaxes a bit. The mood between them has obviously changed.)
Joanne: It's not completely your fault. I wasn't watching where I was going either.
Richard: Well thats behind us now. Its a shame you missed your train. Where were you headed?
Joanne: Why should I tell you that?
Richard: I was just asking, being friendly. I don’t have to sit here with you and talk—
Joanne: I’m jokin’. I was headed home. How about you?
Richard: I was heading up to the city for a dinner.
Joanne: (Scoots closer to him like having a girl-talk) Oh, who’s the lucky lady?
Richard: Her name is Lora. I sure hope she’s not still waiting around for me.
Joanne: Right… I’m sorry you had to miss your train.
Richard: It wasn't that important anyways. Besides, she was kind of conceited.
(Joanne slightly laughs)
Joanne: (not knowing what to say) I— I’m sorry, I guess?
Richard: Don’t be (smiles). I guess you could say I wasn't interested in a girl who liked looking in a mirror more than a book...
(Joanne blushed as they share a glance before the both of them began laughing. He holds out his hand.)
Richard: I’m Richard. Richard Marshal.
Joanne: Nice to meet you. I’m Joanne Mark.
(They shake hands)
(Joanne looks stage right and stands)
Richard: What is it?
Joanne: This may be a strange question, but would you perhaps spare a few pennies so I could call my sister, and let her know I won’t be home for a few hours?
Richard: Of course. (He reaches around in his pockets and pulls out two pennies as he stands)
Joanne: Thank you very much. (She smiles as he hands her the pennies. Their hands linger a second longer than intended)
(Richard coughs) Richard: You should let her know you’re alright.
Joanne: Right. (They turn away from each other simultaneously in a comical manner)
(Richard sits stage right, admiring her, as Joanne walks stage left to a telephone. She places the pennies inside and dials the number. A few second pass)
(Jean enters stage left. Acts as if in another space)
Joanne: Hello Jean. Its Jo.
Jean: Jo? Where are you? You should be home any minute right?
Joanne: (laughs) Yeah, I should be, but I missed my train, and all the rides are delayed until tonight.
Jean: Jo! Do you want me to drive up there?
Joanne: No. I dont want you to waste the gas. Plus by the time you get here the train will probably arrive.
Jean: Well, alright. You’ll be okay promise?
Joanne: Yes I promise. I have a new friend to keep me company. (Turns to look at Richard who plays off the fact that he was staring at her. She smiles)
Jean: Alright, just stay safe. I’ll see you tonight.
Joanne: See you then… uh Jean can I speak to papa real quick?
Jean: Yes. Why, whats wrong?
Joanne: Nothin! I just have a question regarding The Invisible Man.
(Jean laughs) Jean: Well alright. Hold for just a second. (she turns away from phone) Papa!
(Offstage) Papa: Yes Jean?
Jean: Joanne is on the phone, and she wants to talk to you.
Papa: Joanne? Shouldnt she be home soon?
Jean: Not exactly.
(Papa enters stage left, and takes the phone from Jean)
Papa: Joanne is everything okay?
Joanne: Yes Papa. I just missed my train, and the next one won't be until later tonight. Don’t worry about coming to get me. I’m a big girl.
Papa: (reluctant) Alright my love I will see you tonight.
Joanne: Papa wait!
Joanne: I finished The Invisible Man, and I'm curious what I should do now.
Papa: Why do you need to know now my girl?
Joanne: I need a mission while I wait. (She smiles)
Papa: (He chuckles) Hmm...Find your way to share the mark with the world.
Joanne: Thanks Papa.
Papa: You’re..you’re welcome my love. See you soon.
Joanne: See ya soon
(Joanne hangs up the phone and walks back to the benches. She sits next to Richard who is twiddling with an item from his bag)
Joanne: What's that?
(Richard smiles) Richard: It's a saint medallion...belonged to my brother.
(He shows her the medallion)
Joanne: Saint Michael?
Richard: The Saint of personal protection.
Joanne: Thats a powerful message. Did he give it to you?
(Richard stays silent)
Joanne: I assume that it was a gift I mean.
Richard: Something like that. My mother had given it to my brother before he left for Germany during the war. She said it would protect him in times of need, And it fulfilled it's purpose...until it didn't. Before the war ended my brother returned home, and he decided to pass the medallion onto me for my 18th birthday. He told me that now that I was a man I needed it more than he did. It was one of the greatest gifts I had ever received. That next week though, he returned to Germany for one last tour of duty. My brother...he didn't make it home. (Richard hides his face in his hands)
Joanne: What happened?
Richard: His recon team was ambushed. None of them survived the attack.
(A moment of silence passes)
Joanne: Richard...I am so sorry.
Richard: He was always the strong one. Always the hero. Even when we were kids he would save me from trouble. When he heard news of the war he signed up immediately. All he wanted to do was help. He made my family so proud. He just wanted to make the world an easier place for everyone... All I wanted to do was write. I couldn't even fight for myself. How was I supposed to fight for something greater. I wasn't strong enough... The hero son, and the coward son.
Joanne: That is not true. You don't have to be a soldier, or a strong person to be somebody's hero. In some stories it is the one that seems weak that in the end was the hero all along. You said you're a writer, yes? Well maybe someday your writing will save someone's life. Stories impact people more than they think. The moment you think less of yourself is the moment others will think less of you.
(Joanne keeps her eyes forward as Richard stares at her for a moment. After the moment passes she looks at him)
Richard: What are you?
Joanne: A human who has lived life just as you have. Full of loss, grief, and disappointment. I lost my mother to ALS this past year...But if we forget about happiness, laughter, and the blessings we have. Then we will truly lose what makes life what it is. An adventure.
Richard: I didn't realize that-
Joanne: No one ever does. At least not until someone reminds them.
Richard: I'm sorry about your mother. I can't imagine watching that happen.
Joanne: It was scary. It was like watching my mother deteriorate from the inside out. Like watching someone you knew your entire life become a stranger. My father stayed so strong right up till the end. Never showed one ounce of weakness. The night my mother died he broke. My father was devastated, and he seemed to age overnight. He went from being this happy young man in love with his wife and children, to an old sad man who lost his other half in a matter of seconds. I can't even imagine loving someone so much, that losing them would kill you inside. I also can't imagine a life where you don't find that person. I didn't know that it was even possible until I really saw it in my mother and father. In the end I feel like he didn't completely break because he wasn't alone. Without my sister and I I'm sure he would have fallen apart. We got through it together as a family...we still are getting through it.
Richard: That emptiness feeling for lost loved ones never goes away, but it does get easier with time. Family is something that never breaks.
Joanne: Its something that can't break.
(Once again a moment of silence passes between them. Joanne is now crying, but doesn't sob)
(She wipes her face and smiles)
Joanne: I'm sorry. I don't know why I told you all of that. We just met.
Richard: No, don't be sorry. Sometimes it's best to tell strangers, because the only thing they can do is listen.
Richard : Of course. Anytime… (She leans her head on his shoulder)
(Lights rise slowly. Richard and Joanne sit side by side eyes closed. Joanne leans on Richard's shoulder. They are holding hands. A train whistle goes off, and they are awoken.)
Conductor: This is the first boarding announcement for Train 91, Texas Chief, departing at Gate 17. All Aboard!
Richard: That's me...
(They both stand and look at eachother for a moment.)
Joanne: Well, Richard Marshal...It was very nice to meet you.
Richard: And you, Joanne Mark.
(They both smile and shake eachothers hand. After a moment they hug for a long moment.)
Richard: Don't you forget me. Okay?
Joanne: How could I ever?
(They laughed and he started walking off)
(He turns back.)
Richard: What is it?
(She digs around in her bag and pulls out her version of the invisible man)
Joanne: Take this.
Richard: Your book? What are you doing?
Joanne: I'm sharing it's mark on the world. (She smiles)
(He timidly takes the book.)
Richard: Thank you.
This is the final boarding announcement for Train 91, Texas Chief, departing at Gate 17. All Aboard!
Richard: I have to go, and if you must know I intend to one day return it.
Joanne: I was hoping you would say that. (She smiles)
Richard: Goodbye Joanne.
(He runs off stage for a moment and then quickly runs back.)
Richard: And one more thing. (He kisses her on the cheek)
(He runs off stage and leaves her there speechless. She slowly brings her hand to her cheek, and sits back down. Lights fade)
(The stage is reset back to the hospital room. Amy and old Joanne are back in their places)
Amy: Grandma...That was beautiful. You cant be serious?
Joanne: I am. It's funny isn't it.
Amy: How in the world did you find each other again?
Joanne: Trust me Amy fate has a way of working things out. Plus that wasn't the last time either of us had been late for our trains. (They laughed)
(Amy smiled) Amy: You miss him so much don't you?
Joanne: Of course I do. Everyday I yearn to hear that train whistle one last time.
(Amy lays her head down on her grandmother's lap and closes her eyes.)
Amy: I love you so much Grandma.
Joanne: I love you too ,my baby girl.
(Joanne begins to stroke her hair and hums.)
(The lights dim in a way that shows time has passed. The stage is silent and Joanne's eyes are now closed)
(A train whistle goes off)
(To signify Joanne's death young Richard appears from stage right and walks over to the bed. He keeps his eyes on stage right)
Richard: It's time to go. Are you ready? ( He holds out his hand)
(Young Joanne walks from stage left slowly and grabs his hand. She looks at Amy for a moment)
Joanne: Yes. I'm ready.
(He hugs her)
Joanne: I missed you so much.
Richard: I missed you too my love.
(They walk off stage left hand in hand)
(Amy stands center stage holding the copy of the invisible man, and the saint medallion is around her neck)
Amy: They always call it "The last good day." When people are sick or injured their bodies become very weak. Often a day or two or even a few hours before death, the person can have a surge of energy, that wakes them up, makes them alert, can sometimes let them eat or talk and even spend some quality time with loved ones. My mom told me it was God's way of letting that person say goodbye. Joanne Mark, my grandmother, died on a Friday night, 10:45 pm at Mercy Hospital in Chicago Illinois. She was not in pain, and she peacefully died in her sleep.
My Grandma always taught me that fate has a strange way of making things happen, and even though I will miss her so much. I know in my heart that she is with my Grandpa, and they are at peace together. Life is an adventure, and it's okay to not be the strongest. Overall, sometimes it's okay to miss your train, because something amazing is bound to happen. Something you won't even realize is important at the time. But in the end...it actually is…
(She smiles and gives a moment of silence)
(Amy begins to walk off stage right as a young man runs right into her. She drops the book and he quickly scrambles to pick it up)
Young man: I am so sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going. (He looks at the book title and smiles) The Invisible Man. It's one of my favorites.
Amy: Mine too...
(They stare at each other as the lights fade to black)
End of show